By Elena Fabrichnaya, Steve Holland and Patricia Zengerle
MOSCOW / WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Russian bank subjected to Western economic sanctions over Russia’s foray into Ukraine revealed on Monday that its executives had met with Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a top White House adviser , in December.
A U.S. Senate committee investigating alleged Russian election interference wants to interview Trump’s associates, including Kushner, 36, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and has agreed to testify.
Kushner previously acknowledged meeting with the Russian ambassador in Washington last December, and it was only on Monday that it emerged that executives at Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) had talks with Kushner during a bank tour last year.
The bank said in an emailed statement that, as part of preparing a new strategy, its executives met with representatives of financial institutions in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
He said the roaming meetings were held “with various representatives of America’s largest banks and commercial establishments, including Jared Kushner, the director of the Kushner Companies.” VEB declined to say where the meetings were held or the dates.
There was no immediate comment from Kushner.
Accusations by US intelligence agencies that Russian actors were behind the hacking of top Democratic Party agents and the spread of disinformation persist in the young Trump presidency. Democrats accuse the Russians of wanting to tilt the election toward the Republicans, a claim dismissed by Trump. Russia denies the accusations.
But there has been no doubt that the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, developed contacts among the Trump team. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign on February 13 following revelations that he had discussed US sanctions against Russia with Kislyak and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the talks.
American officials said that after meeting with Russian Kislyak at Trump Tower last December, a meeting that Flynn also attended, Kushner later met in December with Sergei Gorkov, president of Vnesheconombank.
White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed the meetings and said nothing important was discussed.
Gorkov was appointed head of VEB in early 2016 by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He graduated from the Federal Security Service, or FSB, Russia’s internal security agency. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Merit for Services to the Fatherland, according to the bank’s website.
According to two congressional staff members, some Senate investigators want to question Kushner and Flynn on whether they discussed with Gorkov or other Russian officials or financial executives the possibility of investing in 666 Fifth Avenue in New York or other Kushner Co or Trump properties if the new administration lifted the sanctions.
VEB, in addition to being under sanctions, has been dealing with bad debts after financing politically expedient projects such as the construction of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
It received 150 billion rubles ($ 2.6 billion) in support of the Russian budget in 2016, when its top management was fired and replaced by a team of executives from Russia’s largest lender, Sberbank.
In an article published Dec. 18, Forbes estimated that Jared Kushner, his brother Josh and their parents, Charles and Seryl, are worth at least $ 1.8 billion, more than half of which Forbes estimates in real estate.
Forbes did not provide a specific estimate of Jared Kushner’s net worth on its own.
On Monday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that Kushner is willing to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by US Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina.
“Throughout the campaign and transition, Jared served as the primary official point of contact with foreign governments and officials … and, given this role, he volunteered to speak with President Burr’s committee,” said Spicer to journalists in their daily briefing.
Republican and Democratic leaders on the Senate panel also said that Kushner had agreed to be interviewed, but a date had not yet been set.
Simply meeting with representatives of a US-sanctioned entity is not a violation of the sanctions or against the law.
Evgeny Buryakov, 41, a Russian national who worked at Vnesheconombank and accused by US authorities of posing as a banker while participating in a New York spy ring, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal conspiracy in March 2016. Buryakov He admitted in federal court in Manhattan to acting as an agent of the Russian government without notifying US authorities.
He was indicted by the United States Attorney’s office in Manhattan under Preet Bharara, who was one of several top prosecutors fired or requested to resign earlier this month by the new administration.
Also Monday, a mystery rooted in Trump’s claim that then-President Barack Obama intercepted him during the election campaign was deepened by the revelation that a top Congressional Republican reviewed classified information on White House grounds about the possible surveillance of some Trump campaign associates.
US Representative Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, visited the White House the night before announcing Wednesday that he had information indicating that some Trump associates may have been subjected to some level of activity. intelligence before Trump took office last January. twenty.
Democrats have said that Nunes, who was a member of Trump’s transition team, can no longer conduct a credible investigation into Russian hacking, the US elections, and any possible involvement of Trump associates.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, have urged Nunes to refrain from participating in the Russia investigation.
Nunes told CNN on Monday that he went to the White House grounds because the intelligence information was not available to Congress. He said he did not meet with Trump or his aides at the time and did not coordinate the release of information with the Trump administration.
Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said in a statement that Nunes “met with his source on the White House grounds to have proximity to a safe place where he could view the information provided by the source.”
It was the latest twist in a saga that began on March 4 when Trump said on Twitter without providing evidence that “he just learned that Obama had my ‘wiretaps’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.”
FBI Director James Comey told Congress last Monday that he had seen no evidence to support the claim.
(This version of the story corrects paragraph 1 to show that the meeting was in December, not during the 2016 presidential campaign. Paragraph 22 was also corrected to show that Buryakov pleaded guilty in March 2016, not Friday).